MIAMI -- The way Sandy Alcantara has thrown this season, simply making hard contact off the Marlins’ 23-year-old right-hander has been a challenge for opposing hitters. Belting home runs has been an even tougher task.
But on Thursday night, Alcantara was tagged for three home runs, including two in a five-run sixth inning, and the Nationals rallied for an 8-5 victory and a three-game sweep at Marlins Park.
Juan Soto connected on a solo home run in the fourth inning. Still, the Marlins led, 4-1, heading into the sixth inning, before the Nats batted around. Matt Adams delivered a crushing two-out, three-run shot to right field, knotting the score at 4. And after Kurt Suzuki’s double, Victor Robles’ two-run homer to left put Washington in front to stay.
“He was going pretty good,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Alcantara. “His pitch count was pretty good. Usually in those games, when he's got that kind of momentum, he usually keeps rolling.”
Suzuki homered off José Quijada in the eighth.
Nats starter Stephen Strasburg allowed four runs on seven hits in seven innings, and he picked up the win.
Miguel Rojas had four hits, including three doubles, and two RBIs for the Marlins.
“I feel like we had good at-bats against [Strasburg],” said Rojas, who matched his career high for hits in a game. “We made him use his secondary pitches early in the game because we were aggressive. We had a game plan against him to be aggressive with his fastball, because he's been getting hit lately with his fastball. And making him go to his secondary pitches right away. I think it worked for us, but it's baseball. But our starting pitching has been great for us. That's the positive thing.”
For Alcantara, it was a rare night where he was hurt by the long ball. He entered the night having not allowed a home run in 45 2/3 innings, dating to May 11 at the Mets. Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto each went deep that day.
“In sixth, we stayed on the ball, got the ball up, and were able to make good contact,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “When we go good, our hitting, we stay in the zone. That’s the key for us, stay in the zone, and stop chasing. We did that in that [sixth] inning.”
Alcantara’s homerless streak reached 49 1/3 innings before Juan Soto launched his 12th homer in the fourth inning. Adams and Robles went deep in a five-run sixth that turned momentum in the Nationals’ favor.
“Everything happened in one inning,” Alcantara said. “They made the adjustments and they hit them.”
The home runs hit by Adams and Robles came on sliders.
Entering the night, Alcantara had a .60 HR/9, second in the Majors according to qualified starters. And according to Statcast, his hard-hit rate and exit velocities against ranked in the 85th percentile.
“I thought he was throwing the ball really well, until that inning,” Rojas said. “It seems like every time he had guys in scoring position, he started worrying about the runners on bases, instead of making pitches. But I feel like Sandy’s going to learn from it, and he's been really, really good for us. Arguably, the best pitcher that we've had in the first month. Hopefully, he can bounce back from this one.”
The average exit velocity of Alcantara is 86.2 mph, below the MLB average, 87.4 mph.
In June, Alcantara had been on a roll, entering 3-2 with a 1.97 ERA in seven starts.
Before Robles’ homer put the Nationals ahead for good, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. made a mound visit to Alcantara.
“He came to me, and he told me to relax. ‘I know you've got good stuff right now. Just throw a slider right there,’” Alcantara said. “I threw it right there. Robles made the adjustment, and he hit it. That happens in the game.”
In the ninth inning, Marlins closer Sergio Romo was shaken up and bruised his left knee after colliding with Trea Turner.
The club feels he will be fine.